Bucking the Trend

By Chris Lauderback on August 6, 2013 at 2:00p
25 Comments

It never fails. The excitement of a new football season breeds optimism at a rate capable of making rabbits blush. Often times, that optimism can border on the ridiculous because, well, that tends to come with the territory of being a rabid fan. 

Does Stan Drayton look a little like Troy Smith or is it just me?Dontre Wilson has the most hype heading into fall camp

By extension, the hype surrounding an incoming crop of freshmen can reach the same unrealistic levels. 

With the Buckeyes sitting at #2 in the USA Today Preseason Coaches Poll and sporting an incoming consensus top two recruiting class as fall camp begins, the hype for both the team as a whole and the latest batch of blue chips is at a fever pitch. 

The national championship talk is certainly valid based on the last season's success, the number of key returnees along the offensive line, the expected improvement of and already special Braxton Miller, a seasoned secondary and a beast known as Ryan Damn Shazier coupled with a friendly schedule.

The lofty expectations being thrust upon the incoming freshmen to be difference makers in year one, however, could turn out to be a different story. 

In any given week, freshmen from Joey Bosa to Vonn Bell, Ezekiel Elliott, Trey Johnson, Mike Mitchell, Jalin Marshall and Dontre Wilson have created chatter labeling them as impact players their first fall on campus. 

It's far-fetched to have that many newcomers burst onto the scene but what might be realistic for Urban's latest haul?

Looking for at least a hint of perspective, I reviewed the collective performance of the last five freshmen classes to get a feel for what might be realistic in terms of legit production. 

2008

The 2008 haul, dubbed the "Brew Crew", checked in at 4th in the final Rivals rankings.

TP completed 61% of his passes in 2008Pryor totaled 1,942 yards of offense as a freshman

Two freshmen, out of a class of 20, were starters and legit impact players in Terrelle Pryor and Mike Brewster.

Pryor's rookie campaign saw him rank 2nd on the team with 631 rushing yards and his 18 combined touchdowns and 1,942 yards of total offense paced the team.

Lamaar Thomas ('memba him?), Nathan Williams and DeVier Posey were the only other freshmen who were even marginal factors with Thomas returning 16 kicks and catching four passes while Williams was 16th on the team with 18 tackles and Posey ranking 5th in receiving with a paltry 117 yards.  

Etienne Sabino made a few plays on special teams (6 tackles) and Andrew Sweat picked up five stops. 

The other 13 freshmen contributed exactly nothing to the 10-3 team that finished 11th in the final Coaches Poll but many would offer significant contributions over the course of their careers including Mike Adams, Ben Buchanan, Garrett Goebel, Travis Howard, Orhian Johnson, J.B. Shugarts and Jake Stoneburner. 

Still, as freshmen, only Pryor and Brewster can really be considered big time factors out of 20 kids. 

2009

Jim Tressel compiled another top-five nationally ranked recruiting class in 2009 though the group didn't generate the same hype as the previous year's class elevated by Pryor's late commitment. 

Hall rushed for 248 yards as a freshman

Ranked 3rd by Rivals, the 25-man class was headlined by a pair of five-star commits in LB Dorian Bell and DB Corey (Pittsburgh) Brown. Of course, those stars meant squat in year one as both players took redshirts. Bell would eventually be shown the door while Brown, now a fifth-year senior and a first-class dude, has 11 career tackles. 

Jordan Hall, a four-star out of Jeanette, made the most impact as a freshman ranking 4th on the squad in rushing with 248 yards and four touchdowns. Another four-star, Duron Carter, gave Buckeye fans a small taste of what he'd never become with 13 grabs for 176 yards (6th) and a score. 

John Simon earned snaps in year one and responded with 15 tackles, good for 17th on the team with 1.5 sacks. Marcus Hall saw time on the opposite side of the trenches and Zach Boren saw enough time to record four catches out of the backfield. 

Unimpressively, this group accounted for just 18 total points though meaningful-to-huge contributions would come over the following years from the likes of Simon, C.J. Barnett, Boren, Reid Fragel, both Hall's, Corey Linsley and Jack Mewhort. Like 2008, the 2009 crop is a great reminder that legitimate contributors down the line aren't typically factors at all in their first seasons removed from high school. 

2010

Barely a top-25 class, the 2010 group didn't generate much hype before their arrival and the tepid fan excitement was representative of their collective year one performance. 

Hyde was the team's 6th leading rusher in year one

The class of 19 players was a relatively small one and their on field production was even more minute. 

The group managed to score just six points on a Philly Brown 15-yard touchdown catch in a 49 point win over Purdue. Brown, a four-star, ranked 8th on the team with eight grabs for 105 yards. 

Johnathan Hankins was the most impactful defensive freshman with 16 tackles, good for 15th on the team, while Glenville product Christian Bryant added 10 stops. 

On offense, Carlos Hyde saw action in only seven games, tallying 24 carries for 145 yards. 

Drew Basil missed two field goals to round out the freshmen contribution. 

All of these guys have gone on to become solid players led by Hankins' early departure for the NFL with Brown, Bryant, Hyde and Basil still figuring to be huge pieces on a team looking to make a run. 

Andrew Norwell saw action in 11 games as a backup right tackle.

Two players that were absolute non-factors as freshmen; Bradley Roby and Rod Smith, will also play pivotal roles on the march to perfection. 

2011

The 2011 class totaled 23 members and included a kid named Braxton Miller and still fared no better than 10th on Rivals but came in as high as 3rd on Scout.

Miller accounted for 20 TDs and 1,874 yards as a frosh

Whether 3rd or 10th, Jim Tressel recorded a signing day coup with the addition of five-star LB Curtis Grant, along with pledges from names like Miller, Ryan Shazier, Devin Smith and Michael Bennett. 

Of course, Tressel would never get to coach his final batch of freshmen in a game following his unceremonious exit from the program some three and a half months after signing day. 

Despite being forced to play quarterback as a true freshman behind a sketchy offensive line and a even sketchier positional mentorship, Miller led the team in rushing with 715 yards with seven touchdowns and added another 1,159 yards through the air with 13 touchdown tosses against four picks. Miller was incredibly raw but every bit the impact player Pryor was in year one. 

In a passing-challenged offense, Smith co-lead the team in receptions with 14, good for 294 yards and four scores. 

On defense, Shazier showed flashes of greatness ranking 6th on the team with 57 stops along with three sacks. Bennett saw action in all 13 games, picking up 17 tackles (15th) and also racked up three sacks. 

All of these guys will be counted on heavily this fall with Miller and Shazier leading the charge. 

The rest of the class was virtually non-existent in 2011 though names like Jeff Heuerman, Nick Vannett and Evan Spencer could potentially make meaningful strides in 2013.

2012

Taking on the Ohio State job in late November of 2011, and by extension an existing commitment list ranking somewhere around 20th nationally, Urban Meyer gave Buckeye fans a glimpse of his closing ability as he and his staff vaulted the Buckeyes all the way up to a 4th place ranking by Rivals. 

Meyer added LB Jamal Marcus and OL Kyle Dodson on signing day, bringing the class to 25 players, though the group was highlighted by a pair of stud defensive linemen in Noah Spence and Adolphus Maximus Washington. 

Spence's 12 tackles ranked 17th on the squad last year

Learning the ropes on a team featuring a fair amount of veterans, none of the 25 were truly regarded as impact players in year one. 

Spence showed flashes totaling 12 stops in 11 games but often giving the Buckeyes a decent rush off the edge. Washington was also in the mix with nine tackles in 10 games, along with three sacks, one of those coming in the win over Michigan. 

Fellow defenders Armani Reeves, Josh Perry and Marcus participated on special teams and/or defensive mop-up duty with Reeves even returning a couple kicks. 

Offensively, the freshmen were non-factors with Bri'onte Dunn and Michael Thomas serving as the only guys to gain any notice whatsoever. Dunn was the team's 5th leading rusher with 133 yards and Thomas caught just three balls for 22 yards after getting fans all riled up with a 12 catch, 131 yard effort in the Spring Game. 

Obviously, these guys have a long way to go before their legacy in Columbus is cemented but as freshmen on an undefeated team, only Spence and Washington contributed at an even remotely impactful level. 

Though five years isn't a huge sample size, I think it's safe to say freshmen coming in an becoming dynamic players are the exception to the rule. That said, a few outstanding freshman seasons were realized over the last handful of years and the 2013 Buckeyes don't need a plethora of these guys to be true impact players in year one. 

To win it all, it's likely a few will have to emerge especially in key spots in which the Buckeye staff is looking for immediate help. Dontre is certainly the sexy pick following the recent comments by teammates like Braxton and Bryant but are you all in on him yet? Or maybe you see Jalin Marshall as poised to make noise instead. 

With all the holes to fill on defense, do Mitchell or Johnson have the chops to challenge Grant? You might also be in the camp thinking Tyquan Lewis or Joey Bosa can work themselves into heavy snaps along the defensive front. I'd be all over Eli Apple if the secondary wasn't already so experienced. 

Though the freshmen performances in recent years signal it being a bit of a reach that any one player will star in 2013 and that roughly three or less will significantly contribute, how do you see Urban the production of Urban's second class unfolding?

25 Comments

Comments

cinserious's picture

I thought it was Hyde at first.

Life's daily struggle is choosing between saying F--ck-it, or soldiering on with your responsibilities.  

ChazBuckeye's picture

I personally think the 2012 and 2013 classes will not only surpass the other classes on this list but they'll be elite classes (I'm calling it now). In fact, I could see the 2013 class being VERY special starting this year.

Some people think we’re the hunted.I don’t feel that way at all.We’re the hunter.Everybody wants an angry football team.Everybody wants a team on edge and a hungry team.If you’re a hunter,that usually equates to being hungry.

sfgoody's picture

Great article! Thanks for doing the research....I love stuff like this. I don't see a player that will make a brax/TP like splash, particularly since as qbs they have/had a built in advantage, but, I do think this class has the chance to have more quality contributors across the board than previous classes. Is it Aug 31 yet?

sfgoods

skid21's picture

I too love this stuff. Great research and putting things into perspective. With that said, I do think Wilson will be an impact player. I don't think Meyer and Miller come out endorsing a guy who will have little impact. With the camp pics (yes I do love the early pics) Wilson seems thin but I think his speed will make him a star. You have to catch him in order to hit him. I also think Mitchell looks like a man already. I don't think either will start game one but I do think both will get plenty of PT.

Hovenaut's picture

I'm following recruiting, and Ohio State football for that matter, unlike ever before (thanks to the cool stuff here on 11W).

I think it's safe to say we're seeing an uptick in the contributions freshmen are making across the landscape of major college football.

The stakes are higher, on and off the field, as the business behind the game is under scrutiny, the governing body at a crossroads and social media making an impact with every Tweet.

It was just over forty years ago, the NCAA lifted the freshman eligibility ban on football and basketball, which benefitted a guy named Griffin in Columbus.

Nice look back at the impact freshman have made here over the past few years.....and I think the 2013 class adds to it.

I am not the Last Dragon, therefore I do not possess the power of the Glow.

JColeman1's picture

Great article Chris....

ChicagoBuckeyeFan's picture

I definitely think we have a lot of raw talent coming in. But I'm putting more stock in the fellas who've been around a while, and more importantly, have had two off-season workouts with Marotti. I mean, have you seen what he's done with Joshua Perry? Dude's a stud now.

InHartWeTrust's picture

The landscape of the college game has changed, IMO.  Players are better, stronger, faster now at a younger age.  Freshman across the country are making impacts at skill positions, and I think we have a few that will do the same for us this year.

kalabuckzoo's picture

just to keep some perspective, percy harvins frosh stats were...
75 total runs/receptions 855 yds from scrimmage and 5 total tds split between rushing and receiving. (142-1622-10 as a soph).
for someone with his skill set that should be viewed as the absolute peak of what could be expected by a freshman impact player in this offense.
Here's to hoping that collectively the freshman class can make an impact on about 3-4 plays each game which over the season can mean alot.

rekrul's picture

Excellent Point/Post.  I know we have a few hand fulls of people on here that do not like to hear the Percy Harvin role but he did win 2 titles and most often his speed and versatility is what Urban seeks.  It is nice to see that "roles" projected ceiling as a freshman.

Out Work, Out Think, Out Play!!!

ScarletNGrey01's picture

Good perspective on the subject.  I think the best approach is to assume no true freshmen will start or make significant contributions and if a couple do then it's icing on the cake.  We'll have a little attrition due to a few kids not hitting the books or doing something stupid because they are away from home for the first time and there are so many temptations, always happens, but hopefully the vetting of these kids and the compliance department monitoring will continue to get better and better.  This season could be special, but man, thinking about the potential of Braxton's SENIOR season with all those superstars who will be juniors is really something to consider.

The will to win is not as important as the will to prepare to win. -- Woody Hayes

Gametime's picture

In the interest of perspective classes, we also have to consider the recruiting styles of Jim Tressel's classes versus Urban Meyer's when he truly gets to recruit the type of athletes that fit his system (2013) despite the miracle works he did with the 2012 class.
As impact Freshman:
Utah - Steve Savoy (Pivot/Slot WR) | 40 Rec, 663 Yds, 16.6 Avg 7 TDs
Florida - Tim Tebow (QB) | 22 Cmp, 33 Att, 358 Yds, 5 TD; 89 Rushes 469 Yds 5.3 Avg 8 TDs
Percy Harvin (Pivot/Slot WR) 34 Rec, 427 Yds, 12.6 Avg 2TDs, 41 Rushes 428 Yds 10.4 Avg 3 TDs
Jeff Demps (RB) | 78 Att, 605 Yds, 7.8 Avg 7 TDs
And when all of that was running at top speed you had a split of touches of:
Tebow (176), Rainey (84), Demps (78), Harvin (70) [110], Moody (58).
All over 600+ yds of offense at over 7ypc - (except Tebow and Moody on the ypc)
So if these guys are those type of athletes - comparable to his vaunted 08 Florida team, then I don't see why they wouldn't be able to reproduce similar results, especially with Philly & Co. on the outside and the best TE group he's ever had over the middle to keep defenses honest.

...I too dream in color and in rhyme
So I guess I'm one of a kind in a full house
Cause whenever I open my heart, my soul or my mouth
A touch of God rains out...

Patriot4098's picture

I see a few guys making a name for themselves as Shazier did in his Freshmen go, but I dont think we have Braxton Miller who is thrust into the spotlight and shines.  I suppose Shazier could be categorized as that, but when I think LB'rs thrust into the spotlight, I think Big Kat.  THAT was a freshmen year to remember.  Anyone of these guys could step up and shine, but we already have a lot of the pieces to the puzzle.  It's the 2-deep where I see the incoming Frosh, right now.  Just like the 2012 touted recruits.  Now, THAT CLASS, THIS YEAR... WATCH OUT!  I think we will see a lot of them begin to set the tone for the future.  Meanwhile, 2013 recruits will follow suit.

"Evil shenanigans!"     - Mac

SOF_Buckeye's picture

 
Is it too much to ask for at least one defensive freshman with a 'Katzenmoyer' impact and one offensive freshman with a 'Clarett' impact (on field performance)? Of course I'd like to double that per, but the odds are that the established players will do the bulk of the lifting (deference to Marotti)...

"The harder you work, the harder it is to surrender." Woody Hayes

BoFuquel's picture

The 1968 "Super Soph's", maybe the 2013 "Fantastic Frosh". Bringing glory on the same field,The Rose Bowl 1-6-2014 Pasadena, CA. GO BUCKS! 

I wish I didn't know now what I didn't know then.

1967Buck's picture

  Very nice write up Sir. Well done. Go Bucks.

DannyBeane's picture

I definitely believe a lot of our freshmen have the physical tools to compete on day one. Hell most of them look like grown ass men. But having the physical tools is only half the battle. You have to know the playbook as well as gel with your teammates. If you're over/under running your plays and/or don't trust your team mates/self then you will have a hard time contributing and that's why I'm skeptical on seeing freshmen get more playtime than during garbage time/cupcake teams.

albinomosquito's picture

So what you're saying is, expect the year 2 guys to step up this time around?  I think there are some serious studs in last year's class looking for an opportunity.

avail31678's picture

Though five years isn't a huge sample size, I think it's safe to say freshmen coming in an becoming dynamic players are the exception to the rule.

So you're telling me there's a chance...

chirobuck's picture

This is a fantastic write up and an example of why this has become my favorite watering hole for buckeye talk......with that being said I have a couple things to add.....I respectfully disagree with the statement about Spence and Washington being the only 2 to make an actual impact last year, I think Schutt needs to be thrown in there as well, wed all know an impact at DT doesn't always = stats and I thought he held up extremely well at the point of attack for a freshman and he logged his first career start before the other two
 
as far as this year goes I think Meyer has let the cat outta the bag already, get ready for some DW, but other than him I think you have to look to the Dline we have very talented guys replacing the ones in front of them but when you replace all those starters depth becomes an issue so I wouldn't be surprised to see any combination of Bosa/Hill/Price rotating in early

 
^ best post ever ^

Buckeyes2014's picture

Looking forward to Dontre Wilson to be an impact player with Hyde suspended. He looks great.

GO BUCKEYES!

CentralFloridaBuckeye's picture

Great stuff Chris!  Good info!!
 

zbd's picture

I'm tired of A-Roid, Eagle players using the n-word at concerts and OSU players wasting time in night clubs. Bring on the football season. 

Mirror Lake Jump's picture

This is a recruiting junkies who likes to see how classes pan out's crack. Great post!

pjtobin's picture

What a great read! Thanks Chris. 

Bury me in my away jersey, with my buckeye blanket. A diehard who died young. Rip dad.